Itâ€™s clear just a few pages into it, that Poisoned Heart, Vera Ramone Kingâ€™s memoir of her time with Ramoneâ€™s bassist Dee Dee, was not easy to write. The book comes off as part therapy, part twisted love letter to the clearly disturbed rocker. King, who met and fell in love with the punk rocker in 1977, just before the band helped introduce punk rock to the world. Her relationship with Dee Dee lasted for decades, despite the tour bus full of baggage he brought into the relationship.
Manic depressive, violent, a struggling drug addict, but also insanely talented, the Ramoneâ€™s primary songwriter was clearly not a joy to be around. Kingâ€™s memoir is revealing without being exploitive and entertaining, without sugar coating Dee Deeâ€™s exploits. There are some amazing revelations in the book â€“ like the fact that Dee Dee and Vera were supposed to hang out with Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen the week Nancy was stabbed to death by Sid. Kingâ€™s writing, however, is a bit distracting though out with her abusive use of clichÃ©s and not so subtle habit of dropping names at any given chance. Regardless the stories are compelling. A handful of others in the band come off as unsympathetic or simply oblivious to Dee Deeâ€™s violent abuse of Vera, with Johnny Ramone coming off as little more than a tyrant who lived to make Dee Dee miserable. The book goes into some detail on the bassistâ€™s fatal heroin overdose in 2002, after years of sobriety. Poisoned Heart could have very easily been just another sleazy punk rock tell-all, but is handled delicately by King. The writing may be a little stilted, but the story and emotions behind them come out loud and clear.
Poisoned Heart: A Punk Rock Love Story by Vera Ramone King/Phoenix Books/167 pages/Hardcover